Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Benedictine Change

Over the past few years there have been significant acts of the type of change orthodox Catholics had been advocating, but with balance and wisdom, as reported by Catholic Culture.

An excerpt.

“There was a time—and it has extended through most of my adult life—when deeply committed Catholics could cling only to those aspects of the Church which are divinely guaranteed. If Catholic publications strayed into dissidence, at least we could reassure ourselves that the Magisterium did not agree with them. If a local priest preached heresy, at least we could find a Church document which contradicted him. If Catholic education broke down all around us, at least we could found our own schools rooted in sacred Tradition.

“But during this period, our lament was always that of Psalm 13: “How long, O Lord?”

“During the extended pontificate of John Paul II, we witnessed a protracted intellectual battle over the meaning of the Second Vatican Council and even over the nature of the Catholic Faith itself. Perhaps the greatest victory of this campaign was the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which immediately gave the lie to so much preaching, so much religious education, and so many Catholic textbooks. But although the battle for Catholic institutions was waged intellectually (one thinks, for example, of John Paul’s prescription for Catholic universities in Ex Corde Ecclesiae), we saw very little effort to actually take disciplinary control over wayward dioceses, Catholic agencies or Catholic schools.

“The Vatican’s hands-off response to the widespread loss of an authentic Catholic identity set the pattern for most bishops. Although the episcopacy improved through the appointments of John Paul II, few bishops did more than teach. Discipline was rare; public confrontation rarer still. But roughly four to five years into the pontificate of Benedict XVI, this finally started to change. More and more bishops developed plans to rebuild their dioceses from within, to challenge the universities within their jurisdiction, and to publicly confront wayward politicians. Recently some bishops have begun even to remove irresponsible priests from ministry (in the United States, for example, this has been done by Bishop Robert Finn and Cardinal Francis George). Such shifts strongly suggest that Rome has been sending a more aggressive message for some time.

“And now, in the sixth year of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, the Pope himself has finally begun to set an example by removing at least some notoriously bad bishops from office, which he has done three times in the past year (see the surprising outcome of Bishop Lahey’s trial). It is true that other initiatives were already in progress, such as the Apostolic Visitation of American women religious and the Visitation of the Diocese of Toowoomba, Australia, but an investigation is not always a harbinger of punishment. So the actual removal of several bishops from office in a short time is a sea change.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Fly the Flag and Remember Freedom's Price!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amsterdam Priest Promotes Pedophilia Group

This story from Holland is reminiscent of the revelation that a prominent Jesuit priest attended the founding conference of a similar organization in the United States some years ago.

Satan attacks the truth, his most feared threat, most relentlessly.

An excerpt from the Holland story.

“AMSTERDAM -- The Dutch Catholic Church and the Salesian order are investigating revelations that a Salesian priest, with the full knowledge of his boss, served on the board of a group that promotes pedophilia.

“The order's top official in the Netherlands, Delegate Herman Spronck, confirmed in a statement that the priest -- identified by RTL Nieuws as 73-year-old "Father Van B." -- served on the board of Martijn, a group that campaigns to end the Dutch ban on adult-child sex.

“The group is widely reviled but not outlawed.

"Of course we reject this and distance ourselves from this personal initiative" on the part of the priest, Spronck said in a statement. "Membership in such organizations does not fit with the ethos of the Salesian order."

“However, Spronck's own superior in Belgium said he will investigate both Spronck and Van B., after both men were quoted by RTL Nieuws as saying such relationships aren't always harmful.

“Superior Jos Claes told Belgian television on Saturday he "couldn't imagine" that both men would not be disciplined, but said he must make sure of the facts first.

"Society thinks these relationships are harmful. I disagree," RTL quoted Van B. as saying. He served on Martijn's board from 2008 until 2010, when its founder was arrested for alleged possession of child pornography, a case that is ongoing.

“Van B. told RTL he remains a member of Martijn and now lives in a retirement home in eastern Netherlands.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crime Down

Combining three strikes sentencing and broken windows policing has been reducing crime for years—though others still promote the crime-is-caused-by-society rationale, nicely debunked at the Crime & Consequences blog—and the lowering continues, as this FBI Press Release notes.

An excerpt.

"According to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report released today, the nation experienced a 5.5 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes and a 2.8 percent decline in the number of property crimes in 2010 when compared with data from 2009. The report is based on information the FBI gathered from 13,007 law enforcement agencies that submitted six to 12 comparable months of data for both 2009 and 2010.

"Violent Crime

• In 2010, all four of the violent crime offense categories—murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—declined nationwide compared with data from 2009. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter declined 4.4 percent, forcible rape decreased 4.2 percent, robbery declined 9.5 percent, and aggravated assault was down 3.6 percent….

"Property Crime

• All property crime offense categories—burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft—decreased in 2010 when compared with 2009 data. Motor vehicle theft showed the largest drop (7.2 percent), followed by larceny-theft, which decreased 2.8 percent, and burglary, which declined 1.1 percent.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Third Way?

This is a bracing article in Crisis Magazine about the only two methods of economic organization, regardless of the endless complexity-spinning politicians and economists all too often engage in.

An excerpt.

“Catholic discussion of economic policy usually takes place on a ridiculous level of abstraction. What is fairness, and can the market accomplish that? Shouldn’t the civic order bear responsibility for the health and well-being of its members? How can we balance the demands of social equality and individual ownership?

“These are all very high-minded questions, but they have essentially nothing to do with either the core choices we face or the operation of the state as we know it.

“Let’s state with utmost clarity the issue at the outset: There are only two possible ways to organize the economic life of a nation. There is the market way, which relies on voluntary exchange, protection of private property, and no unwanted invasions of another’s space. The result of this system is commonly called the free market, or capitalism, if you will, but both terms are too limiting. The voluntary, property-rights approach encompasses more than economic exchange; it also encompasses the whole of the voluntary sector that empowers houses of worship, charitable institutions, the family, and every other institution that serves an intermediating role between the individual and the state.

“The other system is very different. It uses the state to intervene in this voluntary system by use of the police power of force, coercion, guns, and jails. That means more laws enforced at gunpoint, taxation, forced redistribution, monetary manipulation, nationalization, war, and all the rest.

“There is no third system.

“You can invent all the terms you want — solidarism, distributism, fascism, democratic socialism, localism, or any other -ism — but it is logically impossible to get around the central issue of consent vs. coercion, of market vs. the state. You are either forced by law to do something — and the law always means force — or you are not. This is also true of the management of individual sectors of society, such as business relationships, education, international relations, consumer protection, care of the vulnerable members of society, health care generally, and all the rest.

“Either voluntarism or force will prevail.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dissident Catholics

They ramble angrily on…as this article from Crisis Magazine reports.

An excerpt.

“While faithful Catholics concluded their celebration of the Year of the Priest only last spring, a coalition of dissident organizations like Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, and the Women’s Ordination Conference have issued a “universal call to ministry” to help build a “non-clerical Catholic Church in which the laity reclaims their baptismal priesthood.” Promising a “radically inclusive understanding of the role and responsibilities of all the Baptized,” the dissident groups are planning to hold the American Catholic Council during Pentecost to encourage the laity to “remove the two-tiered system that separates the ordained from the non-ordained.” For the dissidents, we’re all priests now.

“Well, maybe not all of us. One of the endorsers of the American Catholic Council, Paul Lakeland, a professor of Catholic Thought at Fairfield University, has promoted what he calls the “non-clerical church” but maintains that not all members of the laity have the same gifts to bring to ministry. He writes in his book Catholicism at the Crossroads: How the Laity Can Save the Church, “I am not so sure that someone who is also a plumber or an accountant is necessarily adding to the skills valuable to an ordained minister.” Rather, Lakeland, an ex-Jesuit priest who left the priesthood to marry, suggests that educators (like himself) would be the most logical choice for ministerial leadership once the celibacy requirement is lifted.

“And although we can never know another’s motivation for this kind of spiritual quest, once you scratch the surface of many of the organizers and endorsers of the “non-clerical church” movement, you find individuals with sadness or anger over feeling left out. From women who want to be ordained, to gays and lesbians who want the Church to recognize the goodness of their sexual relationships, to married ex-priests who long to celebrate the Eucharist again, the desire for an inclusive Church that welcomes their ministerial gifts is what unites them. Lakeland’s proposed priesthood is a new and improved model that welcomes women, non-celibate men, and gays and lesbians: “Some will be called to a ministry of leadership, including Eucharistic presidency, while others will be called to minister to the local community in a variety of different ways.”

“More than two decades ago, Pope John Paul II predicted this problem during a visit to the United States in 1987. In a discussion on the dangers of confusing the role of the clergy and the laity, the pope spoke supportively of the role of lay participation in parish life but declined to use the term “lay ministry” in referring to this role. In fact, John Paul warned that, in the move to empower the laity in ministry activities, “we run the risk of clericalizing the laity or laicizing the clergy.”…

“A few years ago, the activities of Call to Action were deemed to be “so irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith” that the Vatican publicly affirmed an Episcopal decree of excommunication for any member of the dissident organization. Claiming that Call to Action is “totally incompatible with the Catholic faith” and is “causing great damage to the Church of Christ,” Cardinal Giovanni Battista confirmed that membership in Call to Action causes the member to be automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Despite this, many Catholic theologians teaching on Catholic campuses retain an active membership in Call to Action, openly participating in meetings and conferences.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bismarck & Catholics

The Catholic Thing has an excellent historical article on the oppression of Catholics in Prussia under Bismarck.

An excerpt.

“Last month, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger raved on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review about Jonathan Steinberg’s new work on nineteenth-century power broker Otto von Bismarck. The “master statesman,” Dr. Kissinger wrote, “was a rationalist whose appropriate philosopher was not Descartes but Darwin; not ‘I think therefore I am’ but the ‘survival of the fittest.’” Kissinger failed to mention, however, that Bismarck was also a rabid anti-Catholic who ruthlessly wielded his power to destroy the Church.

“Bismarck (1815-1898), born into a family of Prussian county squires – the “Junkers” – ruled Germany from 1862 to 1889 under three kings of the House of Hohenzollern. He was not a charismatic figure or a great orator, but he was a brilliant political manipulator who dominated his nation’s government by sheer force of will.

“To consolidate the numerous German principalities under Protestant Prussia and not Catholic Austria, Bismarck engineered three victorious wars in less than a decade. In 1864, after a limited war with Denmark, Prussia extended its hegemony by annexing the Duchy of Schleswig.

“Next, Prussia took on Austria in 1866 who sued for peace after being badly defeated at the Battle of Konigrantz. The agreement Bismarck negotiated established that Austria would withdraw from the association of German states.

“Then Bismarck’s Prussian Army defeated France at the Battle Sedan in 1871 and swallowed up the Alsace-Lorraine region. During the peace negotiations at the Hall of Mirrors in the Château de Versailles, Bismarck achieved his ultimate goal: King Wilhelm I of Prussia was declared Emperor of Germany, a new federation comprising twenty-five states.

“To weaken the autonomy of the constituent states, now Imperial Chancellor Bismarck – introduced universal suffrage. He quickly regretted this move, however, after he realized one-third of the population of the expanded Prussian state were Roman Catholics.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just War, Capital Punishment & Violence

In reading much of what Catholics, in leadership and from the academy, write lately, it is often difficut to perceive that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2263-2267) clearly supports the use of defensive violence to protect the innocent in the form of just war and capital punishment since its beginning.

This article from The Catholic Thing looks at the word violence from the perspective of the Church.

An excerpt.

L ‘Osservatore Romano for 30 March had this headline: “Let the Weapons Be Silenced in Libya and Let Dialogue Begin.” The implication was that “dialogue” can always take the place of arms. The status quo is better than change. The assumption is that the recourse to arms is not calculated or rational in its own way. Human experience often tells us that before any meaningful discussion takes place arms or violence have to be met with arms or violence. It is an odd reading of human nature and history to imply that all we have to do is lay down arms and “dialogue.” Then, all will be well. Enemies exist for whom “dialogue” is not a significant category except as an aid to gain their ends without arms.

“In a Good Friday interview on Italian Television, Benedict XVI responded to the question of a Muslim woman: “Violence never comes from God, never helps bring anything good, but is a destructive means and not the path to escape difficulties. He (Christ) is thus a strong voice against every type of violence” (ORE, April 27). The papal offices are filled with pleas for peacemakers and non-violence, for dialogues of every sort.

“Almost never do we hear discussed the issue of just war or legitimate, indeed obligatory, defense measures. The Holy Father speaks regularly to Italian and Vatican police, to military chaplains, and of course to diplomats. In his Regensburg Address, Benedict did indicate that areas of discussion and dialogue would have to be protected from violence for them to function. This almost unequivocal condemnation of “violence,” however, seems curious to me. It lacks precision. A reasonable case can be made for the need and use of arms that is not simply “violence” in the pejorative sense.

“In thinking about this recent turn in ecclesiastical discourse, which often sounds like pacifism, I recalled the discussion of Yves Simon in which he carefully distinguished between violence and coercion. In his famous Philosophy of Democratic Government, Simon pointed out that the term “violence” is not always simply negative. Just and unjust uses of violence are to be distinguished. “‘Violence,’ Simon writes, “is sometimes used as a synonym of ‘coercion.’ In this sense the arrest of a burglar by a police officer is an act of violence. Anybody can see that this is loose language, to be prohibited whenever scientific rigor is needed. Not the policeman, but the burglar, is violent.”

“Violence and coercion are thus distinguished. Coercion is the use of adequate force according to man-made law, as an application of natural law. Police officers and soldiers are established to bring criminals to justice, to prevent “violence” that is not rooted in justice. This fact does not deny that occasions can occur when private citizens have to defend themselves against criminals in lieu of the immediate aid of law. Much of the “violence” of the present drug “trade” falls into this area. Nor does it mean that the police or military may not act contrary to their own law. But it does mean that the sanctioned use of force should not be called “violence” as if it has no responsible reason or cause.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Catholic Social Teaching & 2012

Following up to yesterday’s post on social teaching, the continued efforts of some Catholics to define the work of social justice as directing as much government money as handouts to the poor as possible, rather than the real purpose of helping the poor—which is to empower them (teaching individuals to fish rather than just giving them fish)—as George Weigel aptly notes in this article from the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

An excerpt.

“Barring an international conflagration or another 9/11, both of which may God forbid, the 2012 election is going to be fought on the question of America's fiscal future: Will the United States get a grip now, and over the next several decades, on the costs associated with an aging society? Or will we spend-and-borrow ourselves into virtual insolvency? Greece, Portugal, Spain, and other European countries have chosen the latter route, causing serious distress domestically and some disruption in the international economy. If the United States opts to go down the same road, the consequences will not only be grave at home; they will be far graver abroad, as American profligacy puts unbearable strains on the international financial and economic systems.

“In 2011, the United States is like a patient who has been told that he or she has a serious, advanced, but curable disease: curable if certain measures are taken. There is little debate about the diagnosis, for everyone can read the demographic and budgetary realities; thus just about everyone, left, right, and center, agrees that we've got a major, but solvable, problem, the resolution of which will determine whether our children and grandchildren thank us, or wonder why we didn't have the wit and will to fix what was wrong when we had the chance. The question before the electorate in 2012 will be, what are the measures necessary to cure the disease?

“Catholic social thought ought to be helpful in sorting this out. Its both/and approach to society and public policy—the individual and the common good, the market and a strong legal and cultural framework to guide it, the responsibilities of individuals and the responsibilities of government—are a refreshing antidote to the statist and libertarian ideologies of the day. Few, if any, comprehensive visions of the free and virtuous society are as balanced and supple, or as amenable to creative mixes of public and private initiative, as Catholic social thought.

“Yet in the hands of some Catholics, Catholic social thought has been reduced to another argument for what Blessed John Paul II criticized, in the 1991 social encyclical Centesimus Annus, as the Social Assistance State—what Americans more familiarly call the Nanny State. In this view, virtually every problem on the 2012 agenda—from the solvency of Social Security and Medicare to federal budgetary discipline and debt reduction—can only be addressed by an increase in the government's involvement in the economy, the society, the culture, and the lives of individuals. Such thinking betrays a sorry lack of imagination (not to mention a sorry lack of historical understanding, of the "been there, done that" school). It is also a crude caricature, and thus a betrayal, of Catholic social thought and the social doctrine of the popes from Leo XIII through Benedict XVI.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Social Teaching & Public Policy

The connection between the two should be clear—especially if you go to the source for Catholic social teaching, the Catechism and Peter—but all too often it is not, as this article from the Catholic News Agency reports.

An excerpt.

“While I still see the culture war resulting from this as a large part of what ails us, I’ve come belatedly to understand that something else also is at work: conflict between two fundamentally different visions of government’s role in bringing about a good and just society — and perhaps even what that society should look like.

“Wishing to be fair to them both (a nicety their partisans generally ignore), I’m hesitant even to give them names. But since to speak of them it’s necessary to call them something, I suggest “social democracy” and “democratic capitalism.”

“At bottom, social democracy sees government as a provider and democratic capitalism sees it as an enabler. As we are now being reminded, many large conflicts in contemporary America find their origin in that difference. It needs exploring.

“Many years ago, George Santayana, the erstwhile Harvard philosopher who lived in this country for most of four decades, concluded that individualism and good will coexist at the heart of the American character.

“How can that be? As he explained it, the instinct of an American was “to think well of everybody, and to wish everybody well, but in a spirit of rough comradeship.”

“When he has given his neighbor a chance,” Santayana said, “he thinks he has done enough….It will take some hammering to drive a coddling socialism into America.”

“Not long after, the hammering began via the Great Depression and the New Deal. Much that’s happened since then has served to continue it.

“Government in America has moved beyond simply providing a safety net, to meeting a vast range of people’s needs and wants, from day care and prescription drugs to arts subsidies and public broadcasting….

“Does Catholic social doctrine have anything to contribute to the debate? Certainly it does. But it remains to be seen whether those officially responsible for articulating that body of teaching will rise to the occasion.

“A recent statement on federal budget policy from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops highlighted concern for the poor as a criterion of budgetary decisions. Quite so.

“But the official representatives of Catholic social doctrine ought also to be taking the further step of pointing out that for many of America’s poor, poverty has not only economic causes but also cultural — in other words, moral — ones that entitlements alone can’t solve.

“To pass over the roles that family breakdown, illegitimacy, no-fault divorce, single parenthood, toxic schooling, drugs, and early dropping out have in creating the culture of poverty vastly oversimplifies the problem. And to say that isn’t blaming the poor for poverty but simply recognizing inconvenient facts.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Egypt Warning

As a result of the turmoil sweeping the Middle East, the fate of Christians is perilous, as this May 9th report from Asia News notes.

An excerpt.

“Cairo (AsiaNews) - "Egypt is at the beginning of a great civil war. And this because of a small group of Islamic extremists who are stifling the ideals of the Jasmine Revolution, fomenting violence across the country”, Fr Rafic Greich, chief press officer for the Egyptian Catholic Church and spokesman for the seven Egyptian Catholic denominations tells AsiaNews. The priest calls on the international community to support the military led government and protect all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, from discrimination and the advent of a fundamentalist Islamic regime. Today, thousands of Copts protested outside the headquarters of the Egyptian TV (Maspero) a few meters from Tahrir Square, calling for greater security, equal rights and the end of discrimination.

“After the clashes last May 7 between Orthodox Copts and Muslims left at 12 dead and 189 wounded, this morning the army deployed thousands of troops in the capital and suburbs. To prevent further violence, the security forces have arrested 190 people, Christians and Muslims, threatening the death penalty for all those who foment sectarian hatred.

"The situation is very critical - points out Fr. Greich - the military government is too weak and fears Islamic extremist groups like the Salafis, who are eager to create unrest and chaos everywhere. " The priest also said that the Coptic Catholic Church is in danger, even though "for now, no Catholic church was attacked." However, immediately after the attack on the church of St. Mina Imbada (north-east of Cairo), the Coptic Orthodox priest of the parish took refuge in the nearby Catholic church spared from attacks by Salafists. "During the clashes - Fr.Greiche states - the Salafists retaliated and killed a sixteen year old nephew of the local Catholic bishop, shooting him in the head."

“A few months after the fall of Mubarak, the ideals of the popular uprising are in danger of being suffocated by radical Islam and counter-revolutionary attempts carried out by men of the former regime. According to Father Greich latter are using the Salafists to create a climate of terror and fear. He stresses, however, that the ideology of radical Islam is spreading even among the main, once moderate, Egyptian Muslim leaders, who are increasingly drawing closer to fringe elements, figures such as Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi and other members of Muslim Brotherhood.

“For Father Greich the popular revolution of 25 February was a great event, but to date there no are leaders who can represent its values. "On the other hand - he says - the aim of the revolution organized by the young people at Tahrir Square was not to replace one regime with another regime."

“Meanwhile, AsiaNews sources in Cairo, anonymous for security reasons, explain that the lay movements born after the revolution are fighting with all their might to transform Egypt into a secular state that respects human rights. But they need the support of the international community which must strongly condemn the acts by extremists and, together with the government draw up an aid plan to help revive the Egyptian economy. (S.C.)”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pollution Destroying Buildings

Wow! That is all you can say about the continued ability of human technology, about which God is surely well-pleased, to produce solutions to our problems, as this article from Fast Company notes.

An excerpt.

“Struggling to breathe because of the layer of smog hovering in the atmosphere above you? Alcoa has come up with a potential solution for that most unpleasant of man-made environmental issues: the smog-eating building.

“Alcoa's Reynobond with Ecoclean cleans both itself and the air around it, by decomposing smog, dirt, diesel fumes, and all the other nasty pollutants that hover around building surfaces. Alcoa claims that 10,000 square feet of the panels have the equivalent air-cleansing power of 80 trees. No need for trees when you have buildings that eat smog!

“The panel features a titanium dioxide coating (that's the EcoClean part) on top of a pre-painted aluminum surface (that's the Reynobond). Sunlight acts as a catalyst to break down the pollutants on the aluminum panel into harmless particles that can be washed away by rain. Since the Reynobond surface is super hydrophilic, water particles don't bead on top of it--they collapse and run down the side of the building. Just a small amount of rain or humidity can clean the surface.

“Alcoa explains how the technology can help smog-laden cities:

“As the primary component of smog, NOx not only makes buildings dirty, but it also threatens the quality of the air we breathe. But when NOx molecules float near the surface of Reynobond with EcoClean, they are attacked by free radicals generated from the titanium dioxide reacting with water and oxygen in the air. The free radicals oxidize the NOx molecules, converting them to a harmless nitrate. In this way, Reynobond with EcoClean constantly works to remove pollutants by using sunlight and the water vapor and oxygen in the air to clean the air itself.

“There are monetary benefits, too. The Reynobond with Ecoclean panels cost 4% to 5% more than their non-smog-eating counterparts, but they can cut a building's maintenance costs by up to half since the panels are self-cleaning.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Great Heresy Falls on Hard Times

As a convert, I spent a lot of time studying the history of the Catholic Church and in that process encountered Hilaire Belloc’s book, The Great Heresies, which, in a mere few hundred pages, taught me about the history of the Church from the perspective of its heretics, chief among them Martin Luther, the once Catholic priest who violated his vows and married a nun while building his heresy, which is now disintegrating, as this article from Catholic Culture notes.

An excerpt.

“I intended to give the poor Protestants a break, but now I read that the Lutherans are imploding or exploding, depending on your point of view. It seems that the two largest Lutheran “churches” in America have broken up, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

“The first split occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s after a long battle between resurgent conservatives and liberals, the latter including especially the faculty of Concordia Seminary. The liberal losers in the LCMS moved on to help shape the ELCA in the late 1980’s, but they crafted a self-destructive mode of governance. Insisting on disproportionate minority representation in all governing bodies and committees, the ELCA ultimately shifted power to special interest groups, hastening an inevitable disintegration in the last few years. Meanwhile, the more conservative LCMS seems doomed to be locked in constant theological squabbling, encompassing spiritual, social and political concerns….

“The whole matter depends on the basic principles of what we might call Religion 101.Any Revelation which God discloses to us must necessarily include details of the ongoing authority by which that Revelation is to be transmitted and implemented over time. Without this, God has no means of making His Revelation effective; His Word would return to Him void (Is 55:11). The ultimate structure and authority of a Church, if it is to be taken seriously as something which can achieve God’s purpose despite human weaknesses, cannot be drawn from human imagination or fashioned through human debate and compromise. In other words, to avoid being irremediably flawed and inherently self-destructive, the mechanism of authority in a true Church must come from God Himself.” (italics added)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Religion & Crime

James Q. Wilson, one of the few major thinkers on criminal justice public policy issues to demand a vigorous evaluation (our earlier post on evaluating rehabilitation programs includes his definition of rigorous evaluation) before proclaiming a rehabilitation program successful, reviews a new book on the subject in the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“This book has two messages. First, religion reduces crime. Second, look what happens to scholars who say this is true.

“The first argument rests on the work of Byron R. Johnson, a professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, who compiled a survey of every study between 1944 and 2010 that measured the possible effect of religion on crime. He found 273 such studies. As he reports in "More God, Less Crime," even though their authors used different methods and assessed different groups of people, 90% of these studies found that more religiosity resulted in less crime. Only 2% found that religion produced more crime. (The remaining 8% found no relationship either way.)

“Does this prove that religion reduces crime? Not precisely, for these are all quasi-experimental studies. If they were truly experimental and thus carried greater intellectual weight, the researchers would direct people, none of whom had any religion, either to acquire and practice one or to remain godless and thereby stay in the control group. We would then compare the groups' crime rates. Doing this would be immoral, illegal and impractical, and so we are left with studies that compare religious and nonreligious people and try to control statistically for other factors that might explain away the religion-and-crime link.

“How much confidence, then, should we have in nonexperimental studies? Not a lot, as none of the studies that Mr. Johnson cites show the statistical controls necessary to evaluate them. But offsetting this weakness is the number of studies showing a religious effect. And we can look at a few of the best ones, such as that by Richard Freeman. A Harvard professor of economics, he arranged for 2,358 young black men living in downtown Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia to be interviewed. He found that, other things (such as family and economic background) being equal, going to church is associated with substantial differences in how young men behave. More churchgoing, less crime, less alcohol and fewer drugs. As Mr. Freeman puts it: "The effect of churchgoing is not the result of churchgoing youth having 'good attitudes.' " If you want to see his reasons, look at his book "The Black Youth Employment Crisis" (1986).

“The interesting question is whether society can make religion more important in the lives of convicted offenders. The largest effort to do this is managed by the Prison Fellowship, an organization created by Charles Colson in the 1970s when he was in jail after having pleaded guilty to charges involving his role in the Nixon administration's effort to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers leaker.

“Evaluating the Prison Fellowship program is not easy. Inmates, according to the organization, must complete all three phases of its program in order to benefit. Phase one involves Bible study while in prison; phase two requires community service during the day at a nearby city; and phase three means linking up with mentors and churches in the community. Each phase lasts about a year.

“Mr. Johnson looked at the program's effectiveness in Texas and found that those who completed all three phases were much less likely to be arrested or incarcerated for a new crime than those who dropped out. The key question is whether the inmates who go through all three phases differ in other ways from those who never join the program or drop out early.

“In an earlier study of inmates at four New York prisons, Mr. Johnson says, there was no difference between Fellowship and non-Fellowship groups over an eight-year period except for those members of the program who worked hard at Bible studies. Even then, the effect lasted for only two or three years after their release.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opus Dei Movie

This magnificent apostolate of the Church, which has touched so many lives and played a major role in my conversion, has a movie about its founder, which opened May 6th and is already garnering great comments, as in this article from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“When the wartime epic "There Be Dragons" opens in theaters today, it will cap a remarkable evolution in the popular representation of Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic society whose founder, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, is the hero of the new film.

“Set during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, when Escrivá was a young man (he died in 1975 and was canonized Saint Josemaría in 2002), "There Be Dragons" was conceived by Roland Joffé, the Oscar-nominated English director and self-described "wobbly agnostic," who is hardly one to carry water for a group like Opus Dei. But Mr. Joffé offers a human and sympathetic portrait of Escrivá and, by extension, of Opus Dei.

“That is quite a change from the sinister portrayal of Opus Dei in the 2006 film adaptation of Dan Brown's thriller, "The Da Vinci Code," which included a murderous albino monk in its cast of caricatures. Yet the cinematic shift is more than an artistic choice. At a deeper level it symbolizes a genuine evolution for Opus Dei, an often insular movement that many in the church once considered the bogeyman of the right.

“For decades, the society's devotion to secrecy and influence in Rome only amplified stories of questionable practices and associations that in turn fueled best-selling conspiracy theories.

“The late John Paul II was one of those who championed the society, and as Opus Dei flourished it became a more confident, open and mainstream movement in the church. Opus Dei's strategy of public engagement in the wake of "The Da Vinci Code" phenomenon was a model of public relations, especially for a church that can seem to make a doctrine of defensiveness.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sexual Abuse

The bad news just keeps on coming, as this evil continues to be rooted out from the Church, as reported by the Catholic News Agency concerning the Canadian Bishop jailed for importing child pornography.

An excerpt.

“Ottawa, Canada, May 4, 2011 / 09:01 pm (CNA).- Canadian Bishop Raymond J. Lahey was jailed on May 4 immediately after pleading guilty to importing child pornography into the country.

“Bishop Lahey, 70, formerly led the Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia and was arrested in 2009 after Ottowa airport workers found him in possession of child pornography as he reentered the country from a trip abroad.

“My client feels, deeply and profoundly, remorse and guilt about what he has done and the offense to which he has pleaded,” the bishop's lawyer Michael Edelson told Canadian paper Metro News.

“Edelson informed the court that Bishop Lahey wanted to give up his right to bail. “To signal to the court the sincerity and genuineness of his remorse, he wants to be in jail as of today's date.”

“Officers conducting a search in 2009 at the Ottawa Airport found images “of concern” on Bishop Lahey’s laptop and seized it along with other media devices when the he arrived in Canada from England on Sept. 15. When a forensic examination revealed child pornography, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

“Further investigation of the bishop's personal computer files and electronic devices found 588 pornographic images involving pubescent boys.

“Within weeks, Bishop Lahey had submitted his resignation and by November of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Brian Joseph Dunn as bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

John Henry Cardinal Newman

The Catholic Church is truly blessed with an enormous depth of powerful thinkers whose illuminated writings await the faithful and the converting fortunate enough to begin exploring them; and among this pool of thinkers, few are as enjoyable to read as Cardinal Newman.

In this article from Catholic Culture, the impressions gained from beginning to read Newman’s most popular book, The Idea of a University, are shared; and Dr. Mirus' impressions led me back to my copy, which indeed, led to several underlinings and margin notes, my preferred method of highlighting.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps I've already mentioned that, when I grow up, I want to be like John Henry. It is impossible to read the great Cardinal Newman’s writings even for a few minutes without seeing some important point expressed better than you’ve ever seen it expressed before. Newman is definitely a writer’s saint. It’s a vain dream, I know, but Blessed John Henry Newman is who I want to be when I’m big.

“To take a case in point, I’ve just started reading the entirety of Newman’s The Idea of a University, of which I have read only excerpts in the past. I had to put several sticky-notes on key passages just in the first thirty pages. The delicious example I want to put before you today is Newman’s rejection of the perversion of authentic intellectual formation occasioned by the demands of journalism, which he expounds in the Preface to his book.

“Newman is attempting to explain the way a student’s mind should be formed, so that by developing a certain suppleness of intellect firmly rooted in the basic disciplines of human thought, the student should emerge with a facility for reflecting upon and effectively turning his attention to the various issues which come before him in the course of his personal life and his life as a citizen: “Let him once gain this habit of method, of starting from fixed points, of making his ground good as he goes, of distinguishing what he knows from what he does not know, and I conceive he will be gradually initiated into the largest and truest philosophical views, and will feel nothing but impatience and disgust at the random theories and imposing sophistries and dashing paradoxes, which carry away half-formed and superficial intellects.”

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prison College Programs

Having developed and managed a successful community-based college educational program for former prisoners as a reentry program, I can attest to the value of education in the process of rehabilitation.

Extending that good idea to the bad idea of offering internet based programs inside prison (considering the skill prisoners have shown controlling crime on the outside from inside via illegally aquired cell-phone techology, though instructor-led or correspondence college courses are appropriate) as reported by the Wall Street Journal, makes no sense.

An excerpt.

“While serving more than 12 years for robbery, Carlos Rosado completed the requirements for a bachelor of arts degree from Bard College, helping him land a job after his release last spring from a New York state prison.

"Most inmates never have the opportunity to get a college degree," said Mr. Rosado, 36 years old, who works as a field engineer for a recycling firm.

“The rarity of that opportunity was underscored in a survey to be released Wednesday by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a nonprofit devoted to increasing access to post-secondary education around the world.

“Based on data provided by correctional officers in 43 states, the survey found only 6% of prisoners were enrolled in vocational or academic post-secondary programs during the 2009-2010 school year. Of those who were enrolled, 86% were serving time in 13 states, suggesting other states provide little access to inmate education.

“The survey, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argued for giving inmates greater access to education—including Internet-based programs—on grounds that doing so could reduce the overall cost of incarceration by limiting recidivism. About 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. cost about $52 billion a year, the survey said.

“At a time of severe budget constraints, any plan to increase funding for prisoner education could face political difficulties.

“The author of the report, IHEP research analyst Brian Sponsler, said, "There is no connection whatsoever between the funder of this work and the policy recommendations derived from it. This is not a Gates Foundation [recommendation] in any sense."

“The survey is part of a Gates-funded research project aimed at examining ways to increase post-secondary-education access to all underserved populations.

“The IHEP study found that most educational opportunities for inmates take place on site via instructor visits to prison. While prisoners in most facilities have long been able to take correspondence classes through the mail, access to the Internet is prohibited in many prisons, both to protect the public from inmate scams and to control inmate communication with the outside world.”

Friday, May 6, 2011

Holy Father on Information Technology

The power to shape and inform the global dialogue around crucial issues is woven through the current and still developing information technology, and Pope Benedict XVI shares his perspective on it, as reported by the Vatican Information Service, one of the most important Vatican venues in that technology.

An excerpt.

VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2011 (VIS) - This afternoon at Castelgandolfo the Pope received the participants in the XVII Assembly of the European Broadcasting Union gathered these days in Rome as guests of Vatican Radio, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

“The Holy Father emphasized that through radio, "pontiffs have been able to transmit, across borders, messages of great importance for humanity. ... It can be said that the entire teaching of the Church in this area - beginning with the addresses of Pius XII, through the documents of the Second Vatican Council, up to my most recent messages on new digital technologies - is marked by a current of optimism, hope, and sincere compassion with those who dedicate themselves in this field to promoting encounter and dialogue, to serve the human community and to contribute to the peaceful development of society".

"In today's society", he continued, "the basic values of the good of humanity are in play, public opinion ... is often found disoriented and divided". In this context he noted that "it is a duty to provide every day, correct and balanced information and a profound debate that seeks the best shared solutions regarding these questions in a pluralistic society. It is a task that requires great professional honor, correction and respect, an openness to different perspectives, clarity in treating problems, freedom from ideological barriers, and an awareness of the complexity of problems".

“Benedict XVI recalled that the Catholic Church "intends to offer by witnessing to her adherence to the truth that is Christ, yet doing so in a spirit of openness and dialogue. ... Religion contributes by 'purifying' reason, helping it not to fall prey to distortions, such as manipulation by ideology or partial application that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person". In this sense the Pope invited the professionals in communications to "seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason, with a view to serving the common good of the nation".

“While emphasizing the difficulties that need to be faced in their service, the Pope stressed that "the challenges of the modern world on which you have to report are too great and too urgent for you to become discouraged or tempted to give up in the face of such difficulties".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

There They Go Again

An excellent article from Catholic Culture revealing the newest political advocacy efforts of the USCCB, clothed within a timely focus on the unemployed, but congruent with the decades-long leftist lurch of the Conference that has consistently shown antipathy to capitalists and sympathy for government, where a more balanced approach is more in keeping with Catholic social teaching.

An excerpt.

“I could not help but investigate our news story proclaiming that the USCCB had made a major new commitment to helping the unemployed. Will the American Church extend its charitable activities to provide as never before for those who are unable to find work?

“Actually, no. Instead, what the USCCB is doing is collaborating with an organization called Interfaith Worker Justice to launch a program called Faith Advocates for Jobs. If you go to the website and download the program’s “congregational toolkit”, you will find that the main purpose of this initiative is to create congregational job clubs and support groups which will be trained and mobilized to mount a highly-orchestrated campaign to “regularly contact legislators and other decision makers” to implement policies which will create jobs, including:

• An economic stimulus package to create and retain millions of jobs, including revitalizing the manufacturing sector.

• A public jobs program to create vital and sustainable jobs.

• Support for states and municipalities to maintain and strengthen social safety net programs.

“To be completely fair, the local support groups created and trained in each congregation are also supposed to meet with the unemployed to make sure they understand the benefits currently available to them, such as extended unemployment benefits, continuing insurance under COBRA, COBRA subsidies, food stamps, and other safety net programs. They are also supposed to learn about foreclosures and seek to help the unemployed to avoid them, and to help the unemployed become part of settlements for companies that have declared bankruptcy. The need for constant encouragement is stressed, and these local support groups should certainly provide other kinds of support, including direct material support.

“These aspects of the program are positive and unobjectionable, but the primary focus appears to be on advocacy for government to create jobs or otherwise provide for the unemployed. There seems to be a presumption that a great deal of the current unemployment problem is caused by direct injustice on the part of employers. One of the toolkit’s prayers is for unjust, greedy employers (of which there certainly are some), and the literature describes the free market as “the golden calf that is worshipped in the United States and across much of the world.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reentry for Women

This appears to be a transformative program, Magdalene/Thistle Farms, using religion, social enterprise and entrepreneurship, to help women.

An excerpt from their website.

"Welcome to Magdalene/Thistle Farms. We are glad you've come to visit.

“Founded by in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt's campus, Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution and addiction. Thistle Farms is our social enterprise.

“A few distinctives of the Magdalene program:

* For two years, we offer housing, food, medical and dental needs, therapy, education and job training, all without charge or taking any government funding.

* Our six homes function without 24-hour live-in staff, relying on residents to create a supportive, community, maintain recovery, and share household tasks.

* Women come to Magdalene from prison, the streets and from across the Southeast and the country.

* Women in Magdalene/Thistle Farms range in age from 20-50, were sexually abused between the ages of 7-11, started using alcohol or drugs by 13, have been arrested on average a 100 times, and have spent about 12 years on the street prostituting.

* Seventy percent of the women who join Magdalene are clean and sober 2 1/2 years after beginning the program.

“We provides housing for 27 residents and graduates and outreach services to women still living on the streets. New residents are given a key, offered the resources needed to maintain recovery, heal from childhood wounds, get physically healthy and find employment. After four months women find work, return to school and/or enter Magdalene’s job training program at Thistle Farms, a social enterprise. Magdalene offers a matched savings program to help residents prepare for economic independence upon graduation. Women who remain in recovery two years post-graduation are eligible for a new home buying program administered by two local congregations and Magdalene.

“Magdalene’s programs are grounded in 24 spiritual principles about living gracefully in community with each other. Residents, graduates, staff and volunteers share daily tasks, offer hospitality, build on each other’s strengths, and provide compassionate, disciplined support.

“Magdalene was founded not only to help a subculture of women, but also to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from abuse, addiction, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that still buys and sells women.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blessed Pope John Paul II

We are blessed to have witnessed the remarkable papacy of John Paul, and we are blessed to have seen a pope truly change the world, through his major role in the defeat of communism and the evil empire

Though there was always great resistance to his papacy from without and from within the Church, as this article from Chiesa reports, he pilgrimed forward, always forward, steering the great barque of Peter through the turbulent seas of our life on earth.

An excerpt.

“Today almost everyone admires him. But in life he was opposed and mocked by many, even within the Church. His holiness is the same as that of the martyrs. His beatitude is the same as that of Jesus on the cross.

“ROME, May 1, 2011 – In Polish, he used to say of himself in his last years: "I am a biedaczek, a wretch." A poor old man, sick and worn out. He, so athletic, had become the man of sorrows. And yet it was precisely then that his holiness began to shine, inside and outside of the Church.

“Before that, instead, pope Karol Wojtyla was admired more as a hero than as a saint. His holiness began to conquer the minds and hearts of many men and women from all over the world when what Jesus had prophesied for the old age of the apostle Peter happened to him: "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

“Now that he has been proclaimed blessed, John Paul II is unveiling to the world the truth of the saying of Jesus: "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

“He did not radiate holiness in the hour of his triumphs. Much of the acclaim that he received while he was traveling the world at a breathtaking pace was too biased and selective to be sincere. The pope who knocked down the iron curtain was a blessing in the eyes of the West. But when he fought in defense of the life of every man born upon the earth, in defense of the most fragile, smallest life, the life that has just been conceived but whose name is already written in heaven, then few listened to him and many shook their heads.

“The story of his pontificate was for him a matter of lights and shadows, welcome and rejection, with strong opposition. But his dominant profile, for many years, was not that of the saint, but of the combatant. When in 1981 he had a brush with death, shot for reasons still not entirely clear, the world bowed in reverence. It observed its minute of silence, and then went right back to the same old unfriendly song.

“Many in the Church also distrusted him. For many, he was "the Polish pope," representing an antiquated, antimodern, populist Christianity. They looked not at his holiness but at his devotion, which wasn't a hit with those who were dreaming of an interior and "adult" Catholicism, so obligingly immersed in the world as to become invisible and silent.

“And yet, little by little, from the crust of the pope as athlete, hero, fighter, devotee, his holiness also began to unveil itself.

“The jubilee, the holy year of 2000, was the turning point. Pope Wojtyla wanted it to be a year of repentance and forgiveness. On the first Sunday of Lent that year, March 12, before the eyes of the world, he presided over an unprecedented penitential liturgy. Seven times, for the seven capital vices, he confessed the sins committed by Christians century after century, and asked God's forgiveness for all of them. Extermination of heretics, persecution of the Jews, wars of religion, humiliation of women... The pope's anguished face, already marked by illness, was the icon of that repentance. The world looked at him with respect. But also with derision. John Paul II exposed himself, defenseless, to blows and insults. He let himself be scourged. There were some who demanded more repentance each time, for yet more faults. And he beat his breast for all of it.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Look in the Mirror

This article from Catholic Culture is a classic, reminding a priest who challenges the Church, to also take a peek in the proverbial mirror.

An excerpt.

“Father Tom Reese [a Jesuit] has discovered the Pew Forum’s figures showing a startling exodus from the Catholic Church in the US. Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, the former editor of America sums things up: ‘One out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic. If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic. Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why. But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus. Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening.’ [emphasis added]

“Well, Father Reese, what about an institution that lost two-thirds of its members? In the US, the Society of Jesus went from 8,400 members in 1965 to 2,650 last year. The decline continues with no end in sight. Yet the American Jesuits have not only refused to study the problem of catastrophic decline themselves, they have gone out of their way to knee-cap scholars whose explanations were unflattering.

“Just ask Peter McDonough, the co-author of Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits. The late Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, was not terribly fond of the book; he criticized its implicit liberal bias. Yet Cardinal Dulles still recognized Passionate Uncertainty as “a wake-up call” for the Jesuits.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beatification of John Paul

Tapestry of John Paul II hangs on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday, May 1, 2011, during beatification ceremonies for the late pontiff. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito), from the Washington Times.

A wonderful day today, as reported by the Vatican News Service.

An excerpt.

“VATICAN CITY, 1 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Following the penitential act of the Mass of Beatification, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Pontiff for the Diocese of Rome, joined Benedict XVI, along with the postulator for the cause of beatification, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, and asked that the beatification of the Servant of God, John Paul II, might proceed:

“Beatissime Pater,
Vicarius Generalis Sanctitatis Vestrae
pro Romana Dioecesi,
humillime a Sanctitate Vestra petit
ut Venerabilem Servum Dei
Ioannem Paulum II, papam,
numero Beatorum adscribere
benignissime digneris.
(Most blessed Father, Your Holiness' Vicar General for the Diocese for Rome humbly asks your Holiness to beneficently deign to inscribe the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II in the number of the Blessed.)

“He then read a brief biography of the Polish Pontiff:

“Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in the Polish town of Wadowice on 18 May 1920 to Karol and Emilia Kaczorowska. He was baptized on 20 June of that year in Wadowice's parish church.

“The second of two children, the joy and serenity of his childhood was shaken by the premature death of his mother when Karol was nine (1929). Three years later, in 1932, his older brother Edmund also died and then in 1941, when he was 21, he also lost his father.

“Brought up in a solid patriotic and religious tradition, he learned from his father, a deeply Christian man, piety and love for one's neighbor, which he nourished with constant prayer and participation in the sacraments.

“The characteristics of his spirituality, to which he remained faithful until his death, were a sincere devotion to the Holy Spirit and love for the Madonna. His relationship with the Mother of God was particularly deep and vibrant, lived with the tenderness of a child who abandons himself to his mother's embrace and with the vigor of a gallant, always ready for his lady's command: "Do what my Son asks!" His complete trust in Mary, which as a bishop he expressed with the motto Totus tuus, also reveals his secret of looking at the world with the eyes of the Mother of God.

“Young Karol's rich personality matured with the interweaving of his intellectual, moral, and spiritual gifts with the events of his day, which marked the history of his country and of Europe.

“During the years of his secondary education, a passion for theatre and poetry grew in him, which he cultivated in the theatrical group of the Faculty of Philology at Krakow's Jagiellonian University where he was enrolled during the 1938 academic year.”